WWE Pushed to Punished, Edition 39: The Trials and Tribulations of Tensai
In the last few weeks, I have been analyzing the controversial careers of many past and current WWE Superstars as part of my Pushed to Punished series. One name that has been suggested to me on multiple occasions over the last year or so has been Tensai, who hadn't fallen off the face of the earth until just recently.
Having had a successful run in Japan under the name Giant Bernard, fans had high hopes for Matt Bloom's WWE return in April 2012. Repackaged as Tensai, he embarked on an impressive winning streak that saw him defeat the likes of John Cena and CM Punk, among others.
WWE soon dropped the ball on his aggressive push before turning him face at the start of 2013. Even his Tons of Funk pairing with Brodus Clay had potential, but that, too, was badly botched shortly thereafter.
Now, Tensai doesn't even find himself on WWE television on a weekly basis. It is a shame given his various talents and how much promise his character showed only two short years ago.
Here, I'll break down every peak and valley in the career of Tensai in an attempt to discover where exactly he went wrong.
Debuting as Lord Tensai
In March 2012, news broke Matt Bloom re-signed with WWE and that his time in New Japan Pro Wrestling had come to an end. Although Bloom initially denied the reports, vignettes for the newly named Lord Tensai began to air that same month hyping his anticipated debut on the Raw roster.
Early reports indicated that he was in line for a monster push upon his return, possibly as the henchman of then-Raw general manager John Laurinaitis. His in-ring work had improved immensely during his time in Japan, so this came as no surprise.
One night removed from WrestleMania 28, Lord Tensai officially made his re-debut in WWE on Raw, squashing Alex Riley in dominant fashion. He sported samuari-like attire and Japanese tattoos and had a manager by the name of Sakamoto by his side.
Following his victory, Lord Tensai continued to decimate Riley by spitting green mist into the air and slamming his skull into the mat. Michael Cole made mention of his WWE past on commentary, putting to rest speculation that his time with the company from years prior would not be acknowledged.
Tweaking His Character and Scoring Various Victories
In subsequent weeks, subtle changes were made to the Tensai character. The "Lord" prefix was dropped from his name, his entrance attire was no more and his finisher was tweaked as well.
Regardless, Tensai continued to rack up victories over the likes of Yoshi Tatsu, Tyson Kidd and R-Truth. He scored one of the biggest victories of his career against John Cena on the April 16 edition of Raw in an Extreme Rules match, albeit with help from Sakamoto and David Otunga.
Tensai continued his winning ways over then-WWE champion CM Punk, defeating him in a Handicap match alongside Daniel Bryan on the May 7 Raw. As dominant as Tensai was, the only issue with his character was that it was still not garnering much heat from live crowds, which would prove to be his ultimate downfall.
Embarking on a Losing Streak
After two months of dominating everyone who dared to step in his path of destruction, Tensai suffered his first loss since returning to WWE at the hands of John Cena on the June 4 edition of Raw. This marked the start of Tensai's fall from grace, as he went on to lose almost every match he was involved in from that point forward.
He faced then-World Heavyweight champion Sheamus in a competitive match the next week but was unsuccessful in scoring the win. He qualified for the SmackDown Money in the Bank Ladder match at the July pay-per-view with a win over Justin Gabriel but came up short of capturing the briefcase.
For the remainder of the year, Tensai's television time was greatly curtailed. With losses to the likes of R-Truth, Kofi Kingston, Sin Cara and even Tyson Kidd, Tensai had been reduced to the role of enhancement talent in a matter of months.
After each of his shortcomings, Tensai violently attacked his servant Sakamoto. However, this ultimately led to nothing, and Sakamoto was later dropped from the Tensai act.
He participated in a traditional five-on-five elimination tag team match at the start of Survivor Series but was the first one eliminated from the bout. Tensai's once-promising 2012 ended on a sour note with a loss to Santino Marella on the December 18 SmackDown.
Teaming with Brodus Clay and Forming Tons of Funk
On the post-Royal Rumble edition of Raw, Tensai began a program with Brodus Clay after being embarrassed by him in a dance-off. Clay eventually convinced Tensai to join him and The Funkadactyls, turning face in the process.
At first, the thought of turning Tensai seemed stupid given his persona at the time, but it was something new and refreshing for his character. He and Clay teamed up for the first time on the February 11 edition of Raw, defeating Primo and Epico in tag action.
As a fan favorite, Tensai gradually got over with the fans due to his wacky dance moves and other odd mannerisms. He and Clay dubbed themselves Tons of Funk and instantly found chemistry with one another.
Tons of Funk defeated Team Rhodes Scholars on the Elimination Chamber pre-show, triggering a feud between the two teams. The Bella Twins, who returned to WWE in March, also got involved, leading to an eight-person tag team match at WrestleMania 29.
Although the match was cut from the show due to time constraints, it was held the next night on Raw instead where Tons of Funk scored the victory. The two tandems continued to feud throughout April, also trading wins in singles competition.
In subsequent months, Tons of Funk was mostly directionless, sparingly competing on WWE TV. They would mostly compete against 3MB on WWE Superstars and Main Event.
Granted, the pairing was never Tag Team title material, but they were a fun duo that entertained the masses while they were together.
Feuding with Brodus Clay
Starting in November, tension was teased between the members of Tons of Funk after Brodus Clay became infuriated with the debuting Xavier Woods for using his entrance music. Tensai tried to calm him down but was pushed away by Clay at every attempt.
At WWE TLC, Clay came up short in a match against R-Truth after Tensai and The Funkadactlys refused to help him cheat. The next night on Raw, Clay walked out on Tensai during a tag team match against Ryback and Curtis Axel, effectively ending their partnership.
The former friends continued to feud for the remainder of the year, with Tensai quickly disposing of Clay on the December 20 edition of SmackDown. They brawled on the Christmas edition of WWE Main Event, but the feud between the two was abruptly dropped shortly thereafter.
Since the start of 2014, Tensai has been mysteriously absent from WWE TV. He has partaken in panels on pay-per-view Kickoff shows in recent months and has also been doing commentary down in NXT, meaning that his in-ring days might now be behind him.
While his aggressive push in early 2012 may not have lasted long, it had all the potential in the world to launch him into super stardom. Whether he deserved to win the WWE Championship at least once is debatable, but there is no denying that he could have had an entertaining feud with CM Punk over the title that summer.
Not only that, but it was widely believed among fans that Tensai was originally scheduled to feud with John Cena that year instead of Big Show. Having seen Cena vs. Show countless times in the past, I think it is safe to say that Tensai vs. Cena would have been far more interesting.
Additionally, the breakup of Tons of Funk late last year should have been beneficial for both Brodus Clay and Tensai, but instead, it proved to be pointless. Neither man has done anything of note (or anything at all for that matter) since splitting up, so it might have been wise to keep them together in retrospect.
Now in the twilight of his career, I don't see Tensai ever getting as strong of a push as he did two years ago, but he can still be a valuable asset to the company. He has done better than expected on commentary in NXT and has a likable personality, so that role could work well for him going forward.
Thanks for reading, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on Tensai's career in WWE and what you think the future holds for him going forward. Also, include any potential topics you would like to see analyzed in upcoming editions of Pushed to Punished.
Read every archived edition of Pushed to Punished here.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, is a journalism major at Endicott College. Visit his website at Next Era Wrestling and "like" his official Facebook page to continue the conversation on all things wrestling.